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Covid, like all other microbes, transmit their genetic material by breathing. When tiny droplets containing the bacteria are released into the air around a person with active TB, the microbes tend to stick together to make a mucus that becomes sticky, causing the droplets to stick to surfaces and both infect and infect others.
Here’s the problem. Because Toxoplasma gondii is a particle that’s distributed very effectively to such a huge range of airwaves, it’s extremely difficult to filter and kill. So while the most plausible way to stop the tiny particles is to deploy a number of highly specialized environmental ventilation technologies, such as so-called megaphones that blast ultra-high-frequency sonar-like sound waves in the air and clear out these particles, it isn’t possible to guarantee such a supply of sound on all days and the noise can be annoying to humans and animals.
Two microbiologists made a new study — the first published study that defines TB exposure to the air like in previous studies — that suggests that solutions that aim to treat airborne TB might be simpler than we previously thought.
Instead of a megaphone, this researchers tested an oral coating made of a simple polymer — the polymer found in plastic wrapping paper and white envelopes. When airborne microbes are aerosolized by the polymer, a crucial, yet little understood characteristic of the Toxoplasma genus, they behave like glue-like biofilms. But in a little plastic duck buoy that was carefully patterned with twizzles of CO or mercury, the microorganisms actually dissolved, a difference compared to the polymeric coating, which makes the microbes sticky.
“Toxoplasma,” claimed the authors, “is a general-purpose bacterial biofilm as well as a particular type of biofilm associated with lung tuberculosis.”
The researchers showed that by treating areas of the ship with the little rubber coating, concentrated traces of Toxoplasma that had been readily blown off by the water were flushed out, meaning that the initial spread of the infection was stopped.
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Importantly, the effectiveness of the coating depended on only three sites inside the ship and “was not affected by the surrounding sea breeze or the frequency of wind.” And while aerosolized Toxoplasma can spread across such a wide spectrum of airwaves, the little rubber buoy could keep the particles present on a ship from being distributed so greatly, they said.
The study indicated that using this approach to protect ships would be much more effective than installing megaphones in land-based systems, as the latter are sometimes hit by waves and have to use a considerably higher frequency of sound.
The findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology.
“We believe that these findings can be a game changer as we develop strategies to combat multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB by mass-targeting airborne transmission without the need for in-air ecosystems or megaphones,” said Adrian Mann, one of the lead authors.
Mann is a researcher at Singapore’s Changi Institute for Infocomm Research, a polytechnic institute. His co-authors are Majidi Araujo, CEO of Visage Microbiome Research Singapore and a former InciWeb Award-winner, and Park Hee-Jung, an assistant professor of microbial ecology at Goteborg University of Technology, Sweden.
This article is republished from CNN with the permission of Scientific American.